Search Interface Usability


A (brief) history

Interface: a definition


+ modes of information seeking

+ cognitive load


+ usability testing


+ faceted searching

+ displaying results

Challenges for libraries

+ public libraries

+ academic libraries

The future/Conclusion


"I have little respect for testing and evaluation in interface research. My argument, perhaps arrogant, is that if you have to test someting carefully to see the difference it makes, then it is not making enough of a difference in the first place" (Negroponte 1995, p. 99).

Morville and Rosenfeld discuss the danger of over-simplifying the search process.

too simple

They argue that there are many different approaches to searching and that the nature of the information need can influence the way in which people search. As mentioned above in discussing different users, there are four basic types of users or searchers. When designing an overall website or search interface it is paramount to understand the needs and behaviours of your expected users. There are several methods commonly used to learn about the information seeking behaviour of users and in usability testing, these include:

o the creation of imaginary users. These personae can be from a variety of backgrounds with varying levels of skill and needs and serve to remind designers of the intended user.
Search analytics
o involves reviewing search logs to see what and how users are searching the system. This gives designers a good focussense of where the limitations are in terms of the information and how it is represented in the system (e.g. metadata).
Contextual inquiry
o focuses on directly asking users how and why they are searching; this can be performed by performing "think alouds" or reporting on the process afterwards
Task analysis
o involves breaking a task down into its discrete steps (for example: how many steps are involved in performing a simple Google search?) and simplifying this process.
Surveys and focus groups (Morville and Rosenfeld, 2007).

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Search Interface: In Your Face
By Lindsay Tripp and Neil MacDonald
LIBR 557: Information Retrieval Concepts and Practice
University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC
December 4th, 2009